Taking care of yourself is essential so you are the best caregiver you can be for your aging parent.
Being a caregiver is one of the most stressful positions you’ll find yourself in as an adult child. Stress can lead to both bodily and emotional fatigue, which can snowball into serious mental and physical health issues. Taking care of yourself is essential — not just to be a better caregiver, but for self-preservation.
Any self-care guide will go through a rote list of how to escape the stresses of caregiving, like getting a massage or relaxing with a good book and a mug of hot tea. But beyond basics, there are many things you can (and should) do to ensure well-being. These are some suggestions to show yourself a little love.
One of the most important things you can do daily is 30 minutes of brisk walking outdoors in the fresh air. Invite a friend to join you to talk. It’s not a big commitment, it’s free, and the benefits are enormous. You should also be sure to stay up-to-date on their own doctor appointments and take your own medications.
The body is made up of roughly 60 percent water, yet most of us are seldom as hydrated as we should be. Pop a slice of lemon or cucumber in a pitcher of water in the morning and focus on drinking eight glasses a day. Nutritious meals and a regular eating schedule are also key. Oftentimes convenience outweighs healthy choices, and it’s common to skip meals. But today, there are a number of meal delivery services that take on the job of bringing fresh, delicious and non-processed meals right to your front door for a reasonable price.
Finally, you need to be sure to get restful sleep for a solid eight-hour stretch if possible, every night. One of the challenges as a caregiver is getting your brain to power down enough to sleep, something that is a challenge when you can’t stop thinking about the difficulties you’re facing. Listening to relaxing music or nature sounds, drinking nighttime tea, researching a sleep aid or talking to your doctor about options that would work for you can all be choices in the struggle to fall and stay asleep. An afternoon rest or nap — even as little as thirty minutes — is also restorative.
As a caregiver, you often put your own needs and feelings last, but having emotional support is crucial. Engage the services of a therapist if things get overwhelming, and don’t forget to rely on your network of friends and family when you need a friendly ear.
Make time for maintaining regular and enjoyable social activities. Having an outlet to relieve stress healthfully is important, whether it be a hobby like painting, writing in a journal, exercise or yoga. Laughter is important to include in the daily routine — so often we’re bogged down with serious things and forget how healing laughter can be. Tune into a comedy radio station, watch a funny movie or watch a standup comedy routine. Little details can also make
everyday routines more enjoyable — drink tea from a fancy china cup or light candles for your evening meal — anything that spices up the ordinary.
Having some type of spiritual practice can offer great comfort to those in a caregiving situation. This could be attending church or bible study, meditation or prayer. Even routines without a specific religious association, like keeping a gratitude journal, giving yourself a daily affirmation or finding a guided “loving kindness” meditation refills your spiritual well. Finally, volunteering for an organization dear to your heart can prove to be very satisfying.
Engage in the activities you need to keep your body, mind, and spirit in great shape so you are the best caregiver you can be for your aging parent.